The middle of the painting is a term any painter immediately identifies with. Also known as the dreaded middle of the painting, or the “this sucks” or even “I suck” stage of the painting. The spot where spontaneity and freedom transition to questions and critical decision making. The place where creating is work and not play. The path that seemed clear before is now murky and unknown.

Where do you go when you don’t know where you’re going?

If my creative path were a single painting I think that right now I would be right in that uncomfortable, unclear middle where I am not sure where I am going. In the story of “The Hero’s Journey” that Joseph Campbell is so well known for, it is the place on the path where you have tried all the stuff you can possibly try without making yourself truly vulnerable to the discomfort and pain that is required to grow.

No pain, no gain.

What does that mean in my personal journey? I’m not clear yet but I know what makes me feel vulnerable which is a pretty good indicator of what is required to grow. Getting comfortable with rejection and criticism from people or institutions that I hold in esteem is definitely one of those tender places I like to sidestep. I have found myself thinking “Just paint for yourself quietly in your studio, you do not need to make this a thing you put out in the world for others.” “Don’t care what other people think'”. The truth though, is I long to have people connect with my work, with me, and to be validated. I spend my time doing a specific thing that hangs on the opinions of others. I need someone to say “You are not wasting your time, what you do has worth.” But even more difficult is coming to believe those words.

Just sharing with you that I’m afraid leaves me feeling vulnerable but also feels like the next little brave step that is required. Clicking “publish” feels very brave.

I’d love to hear about your “Hero’s Journey”. It is a universal story. I could write loads on this topic. Where are you on the journey? Are you excitedly venturing out with a new idea? Are you muddling through the middle? Are you being brave and pushing your limits of what feels comfortable? Are you brave enough to let me know what feels scary to you?

Let me know in the comments.

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  1. Jim #
    September 10, 2020

    Thanks for sharing Bernadtte and I can sooooo relate. Everyone of my paintings has a middle, edge, side or corner that I get stuck in. And as frustrating as it usually is, I’ve come to realize & accept, that this is all part of my creative process.

  2. September 10, 2020

    Thank YOU for sharing that you get stuck too. And to you I would say, yes Jim, you must be creative and you must put it out into the world because that is who you are and what you do. Of course it is much more difficult to accept that sentiment for myself!

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